Thursday, April 03, 2008

scheduling a siyum to avoid ta'anis bechorim and the use of textual emendation in psak

I think it is fair to say that most bechorim avoid actually fasting on ta’anis bechorim by finding a convenient siyum to attend, but this practice has not found unanimous approval in halacha. It is hard to label a meal a seudas mitzvah done l’shem simcha shel mitzvah when the real goal is just to get a heter to eat. And what about speeding up / slowing down one’s learning just to schedule a siyum - doesn’t that prove the real goal is just to eat on the desired day and not really to celebrate the mitzvah through that siyum?

Shu”T Minchas Yitzchak (II:93) tries to justify the minhag ha’olam of scheduling a siyum for ta’anis bechorim and marshals a host of halachic sources you can peruse. I want to just highlight one of the more obscure sources he presents as a sni’f l’hakeil. In the sefer Pe’er Yitzchak, a biography of R’ Yitzchak Isaac of Zidichov, R’ Y”I quotes the Rebbe R’ Tzvi Hirsch of Zidichov as suggesting that our girsa in the Mes. Sofrim which reads “bechorim mis’anim b’Erev Pesach” is incorrect. Instead, the girsa should read “bechorim mis’angim”! And lest you be underwhelmed by this suggestion of girsa change flat out against the shulchan aruch, the sefer asks us to bear in mind that R’ Y”I held that R’ Tzvi Hirsch m’Zidichov was on the same level as the Tanaim, and R’ Y”I himself had all the madreigos of the Maggid m’Mezrich. (I bet all you Litvishe misnagdim are convinced now : )

True, the M.Y. is not convinced enough to pasken on this basis alone against a din in Shulchan Aruch, but he does not hesitate to this idea (and from a biographical work, not a halachic work) into the discussion as a snif l'hakeil. I hate to get all cynical, but can anyone imagine a university-trained scholar suggestion a similar textual emendation and having his idea mentioned as a snif l’hakeil by an acharon writing a tshuvah? Of course, there are very few university scholars I am aware of that people claim are on the madreiga of Tanaim, or even of the Magid m'Mezrich...


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. A monk once walked in to the monastery library, and, to his shock and horror, found the chief researcher banging his head against the wall.
    Brother Timothy!! he cried out, Why are you doing that??? What's wrong???
    To which poor Brother Timothy, still banging away, answered,
    "It said Celebrate!!! Not Celibate!!!"

  3. Anonymous6:33 PM

    THAT IS HILLARIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Not only does your post reference the same emendation, but I see your first comment has the same joke as well!